Ariens manufacturing is at the center of a controversy after the company decided to implement a new rule regarding their Muslim employees and prayer breaks. Many Muslims are now furious and expressed outraged over the company’s policy change, which put an end to prayer breaks during production shifts. As reported by WBAY-TV, Ariens Manufacturing, a Brillion, Wisconsin, equipment manufacturer, which mainly produces snow blowers and lawn mowers, released a statement saying that employees can now only leave to pray during meal breaks.
The following text is an excerpt from the aforementioned statement.
“We are asking employees to pray during scheduled breaks in designated prayer rooms. Our manufacturing environment does not allow for unscheduled breaks in production.”
The company’s old policy allowed workers who wished to pray two five-minute prayer breaks throughout the day. Under the new rule, this is no longer allowed and, according to a report from Mediaite, the new changes are threatening the job status of dozens of Muslims employed by Ariens. Muslims usually pray five times a day, and those employed with Ariens were told that their lunch break can now be used to double as a time of prayer, the report states.
As explained by Shia TV, Ṣalāh, or Muslim prayer, is a major part of Muslims daily activities and it is also one of the Five Pillars of the faith of Islam and an obligatory religious duty for every Muslim. It is described as a physical, mental, and spiritual act of worship that is observed five times every day at prescribed times. In this ritual, the worshiper starts standing, bows, prostrates, and concludes while sitting on the ground. During each posture, the worshiper recites or reads certain verses, phrases, and prayers. A call is made from the mosque, indicating that it is time for the obligatory prayer. On hearing the call, people start preparing themselves for the prayer.
Upon hearing about the change, many Muslims were outraged and immediately spoke out, saying that prayer only during a meal break goes against Muslim practice.
“If someone tells you, ‘You pray on your break,’ and the break time is not the prayer time? It will be impossible to pray,” Masjid Imam Hasan Abdi told reporters.
— CAIR National (@CAIRNational) January 19, 2016
Former Ariens equipment painter Ibrahim Mehemmed told WBAY-TV that he was handed unemployment papers when he questioned the policy change.
“We pray by the time. So they say, ‘If you don’t pray at the break time,’ they give us this [unemployment] paper to just leave,” he was quoted as saying.
The company’s change in Muslims’ prayer break sparked immediate backlash and on Saturday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, called on Ariens to allow Muslim workers to pray at work using the previous policy until the dispute is resolved, Fox News wrote.
Dan Ariens, President and CEO of Ariens, was forced to released the following statement in an attempt to clear up the matter.
“Our staff is committed to providing a great place to work for all employees and have met with members of our Somalian employee group to better understand their needs. We consulted with local representatives who are of Muslim faith to help provide sustainable solutions. We want to be clear that no one was terminated here…”
“We are open to any of the employees returning to work under the new policy or will look for openings in shifts that do not coincide with prayer time,” read a statement from Ariens. “We respect their faith, and we respect their decision regardless of their choice to return to work or not.”
— Ariens Company (@Ariens) January 16, 2016
A company spokesperson says the policy change affects 53 workers, ten of which have indicated they wish to stay in their current positions under the new policy. Despite the outrage from the Muslim community, a law from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission states that “an employer does not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer … [such as] decreased efficiency.”
[Image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images News]